Welcome to another, albeit late, installment of Spensations.
Today I am featuring one of the books that I an DYING to read. It just sounds awesome!
Published By: Spencer Hill Press
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Genre: YA - Dystopia
A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields--a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus--she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.
At first, Elysian Fields,with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne's heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.
The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now "Persephone," and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.
If they play it right, then they'll be safe.
But if they play it wrong, they'll die.
Right from the moment I saw that creep-tastic cover I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and read it. It just looks and sounds epic. I'm so excited to say this is sat on my shelf waiting for me to dive in. I cannot wait.
Now please welcome the awesome Mary Gray to the blog.
Thank you for being here on K-Books and joining me for this feature.
Well I am such a massive fan of Spencer Hill Press, including the new imprints Spence City and Spencer Hill Contemporary. What’s it like being a part of the amazing Spencer Hill Press family?
I’ve had such a good experience. Everyone has been communicative, thoughtful, and professional, from my editors, to my publicists. I was nervous about signing with a small press at first, but I quickly saw their great reputation with bloggers online, and I’m glad I signed with SHP, because they’ve earned that great reputation.
So you have a book, The Dollhouse Asylum coming out with Spencer Hill Press in October. How excited are you about releasing it into the world?
So excited! And scared. It’s nice to think about a reader picking it up and thoroughly enjoying it—it’s validating to know some readers can enjoy my work. The scary part happens when people don’t like my book. But that’s how things are with any book. I like to look at negative reviews of my favorite books and think, “Wow, tastes can be so different!”
So talk us through your typical writing routine.
Since I still have little ones at home, I don’t get to have much of a “regular” routine. But I swap babysitting duties with a friend so she takes my two year old once a week, and I get a few hours then. My husband also typically takes the kids for me once a week when he gets home from work so I can have a long evening. I’ve learned I can’t write when I’m tired—it becomes complete and utter rubbish. And I love to listen to atmospheric music, like the soundtrack to Pan’s Labyrinth to get my voice and tone.
Is there any particular character that you enjoyed writing more than others?
I loved creating Teo because he was so graceful, so evil, so larger than life. He’s real in my head, and I both hate his guts and am in love with him. His brother, Marcus, was a delight to write, because he’s so spontaneous and happy. And Cheyenne, the protagonist in TDA makes sense to me because of her fierce loyalty and inner conflicts, traits I possess myself.
Are there any particular scenes that you enjoy writing more than others?
While writing TDA, my editor wanted to know more about why Cheyenne was in love with Teo. She had me do these writing exercises where we got to see their relationship “before” Elysian Fields, and it was so eye opening. The scenes literally jumped from the page, and we got to keep them. I also adore writing kissing scenes, and panicky moments. You know, the good stuff.
So your book has influences from tragic love stories what inspired you to write about this?
In honesty, when I started writing TDA, all I knew was Cheyenne was stuck there with a man she loved and feared and there were seven men and seven women who lived across from each other on the street. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was dealing with a massive cast, and I quickly brainstormed ways to keep track of everybody. As I got to know Teo better, I soon saw he had this absolute devotion to literature, and my answer was clear: he would force everyone to be couples from tragic literature, because I already knew he was a totalitarian, but now he’d be one with class. I hoped the idea would work out, but honestly, I had no idea that would be such a favorite concept with potential readers.
So from the blurb we see hints of some mythology with the Elysian Fields and the Persephone reference. Are you a fan of Mythology novels?
In truth, I worried when I sold TDA because I saw so many books with mythology in the YA field. I was open to changing Persephone’s identity to another tragic tale, but it just worked so well with the story’s world, and my editor didn’t see the need to change it. I have always loved mythology since I studied it in humanities in college, but when something’s explored a lot in fiction, people tend to put fingers that I’m following a trend, and I promise I wasn’t—if anything, I wanted to do the opposite.
So how did you come up with the title?
When my agent sold my book, my title was my fragility. Cheyenne has this heartbreaking vulnerability, and Teo exploits that. When my editor got the novel, though, one of the first things she said was the title had to change to something more concrete. She explained people didn’t know what my fragility meant, so together we began brainstorming. Even before I sold my book, I’d recorded the audio for my book trailer, and in it I say, “Teo provides us asylum from the monsters outside,” and my editor said, “We need to keep the word asylum in there,” and I agreed because it has this awesome duality: asylum as in protection and asylum as in crazy place.
I knew we needed to pair it with another word, though, so we spent an entire day texting back and forth. Neither one of us could come up with anything. And then, when my editor was talking to her roommate, he asked her what the original title was and what was important about it. She explained that there was this key component: that Cheyenne is so very fragile, so then he thought up things that were fragile, and he said, “Dollhouse!” and everyone stopped and she texted me and we started to get excited because in my story, I had already talked about Teo calling everyone dolls. He dresses them up, forces them how to act, and even the homes were perfect little “dollhouses.” We knew we had our title, and we both loved it.
I then sent Danielle and her roommate my favorite cookies to celebrate and thank them: homemade Nutter Butters replete with peanut butter frosting.
I find it, along with the cover, creepy. Does that stem from the story?
Yes, my agent originally pitched my book as horror—there’s definitely a creepy undertone. That’s how I wanted it to feel, beautiful but creepy. My favorite books have that type of atmosphere and I can’t get enough of it.
The Dollhouse Asylum is categorized as the Dystopian genre. What made you decide to write in this genre?
One of my favorite books of all time is Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. After finishing that book, I said, “I want to write a book about zombies, and I want to write it in first person present tense. Also it needs to be creepy.” (As readers will see, the zombie aspect didn’t quite take center stage like I dreamed, but that’s a good thing, I think.)
I didn’t really know or care about the genre—I just knew the mood I wanted to have. Then, when the publishing market grew glutted with dystopians, I quickly found editors and agents didn’t want that genre at all (hence, my agent pitching it at horror). Luckily for me, an editor picked my story because she fell in love with the premise. So that’s the type of writer I am: I pick a mood for a story I want to tell, regardless of genre.
So is there any inside information or sneak-peaks that you can give us?
Now there’s a loaded question! Um. Hmm. What would my editor allow? How about this: I live in a neighborhood that looks creeptastically like the one in my book, and the freaky part is I wrote the first draft before I even moved here. It’s like fate knew I had to live in a house just like Cheyenne’s to know how to finish editing it.
And finally what can we expect from you in the future after The Dollhouse Asylum?
I’m working on something, but I’m so very far from a finished product. Trust me, when there’s something to share, I WILL SHARE IT.
Getting to Know You – Quick Fire Round
Contemporary or Paranormal? Depends on the day! Today, historical.
Sci-Fi or Dystopia? Dystopia. Panic inducing dystopia. ☺
Hardcopy or E-Book? Hardcopy all the way!
Bookmark or Dog-Ear? Bookmark. I feel like I’ve murdered someone when I’ve dog-eared pages.
Book or Movie? Both! The book’s almost always better, but I love my movies and shows!
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate. Vanilla isn’t even in the contest.
Summer or Winter? Summer! Last year, we built a pool.
Ice-Cream or Cake? Cheesecake or Orange Leaf frozen yogurt.
Coffee or Tea? Neither; hot chocolate.
Nice guy or bad boy? Bad boys in fiction, nice guys in real life.
Thank you so much for being here on K-Books with us today and good luck with the release.
Thank you for having me! You had some excellent questions.